Black Titli

They think they understand things because they become familiar with them. This is only superficial knowledge. It is the knowledge of the astronomer who knows the names of the stars, the botanist who knows the classification of the leaves and flowers, the artist who knows the aesthetics of green and red. This is not to know nature itself- the earth and sky, green and red. Astronomer, botanist, and artist have done no more than grasp impressions and interpret them, each within the vault of his own mind. The more involved they become with the activity of the intellect, the more they set themselves apart and the more difficult it becomes to live naturally.

The Talkers

the boy walks with his muddy feet across my
soul
talking about recitals, virtuosi, conductors,
the lesser known novels of Dostoevsky;
talking about how he corrected a waitress,
a hasher who didn’t know that French dressing
was composed of so and so;
he gabbles about the Arts until
I hate the Arts,
and there is nothing cleaner
than getting back to a bar or
back to the track and watching them run,
watching things go without this
clamor and chatter,
talk, talk, talk,
the small mouth going, the eyes blinking,
a boy, a child, sick with the Arts,
grabbing at it like the skirt of a mother,
and I wonder how many tens of thousands
there are like him across the land
on rainy nights
on sunny mornings
on evenings meant for peace
in concert halls
in cafes
at poetry recitals
talking, soiling, arguing.

Charles Bukowski

How to save the world

begin with an idea
it must be absolute conviction
so strong that it burns
not a personal idea
but one for humanity
do not listen to anything opposing
and do only what aids
on road to the one goal
learn tricks and deception
learn to lie and make money
make tactical friends
and don't bother about enemies
eliminate them or subsume them
remember, you know what is best
everyone else is in the herd
and you will be the shepherd
like god's tortured son
use them at will as cattle
make your goal noble and holy
make the herd believe that
it is essential for success
that the herd must participate
in its own nirvana
while cheering you on
the message is important
use freedom, liberty, democracy
use history and ancient glory
give everyone what they want
tell them what they should want
slay demons not enemies
black monsters of hell
be ruthless and shrewd
one day you and your caravan
will save this fucking world

We're doing what we can

"we're doing what we can" he said
he was sincere, he believed it
like the captain of the drowning ship
who minimizes casualties
this situation is worse
it is not quick death
it is the living in distress
for prolonged periods of time
slaving away in pointlessness
becoming experts at mediocrity,
learning conceit and morality
side by side
with dreams of greatness
which will never be achieved
only more dense writing
more "education"
more "progress"
more delusional captains
and battered passengers
too afraid to ask what's going on
while the rickety ship
sails the cutting edge oceans of science

We can't save you

the more they came for you
the more of god you saw
he was your solace
your isolation, disaffection
and your tedium
your own proselytizing family
stood with you
guiding you to that faith
a faith that used to be
more habitual than sincere
now it has you
it surrounds you and bathes you
your thoughts, your decisions
pulling you away from us
putting you on the back foot
making you desperate
in other ways
pitching itself against sentiment
we left you behind
we did not have the time
and now we see with regret
you drowning in nonsense

You have potential?

It is normal
waking up to silence
to go long periods
without human touch
to put work
not fulfilling work,
not absorbing work
before things more basic
home and connection
familiarity and joy
love and desire
formal tedious work
with future promises
always that future
the selling of the soul
for a dream future
probably all illusion
held hostage nonetheless
by visionary prophets
constantly barking
"do this, do that!.."
"you have potential.."
at what cost!
at what fucking cost!?

Dreary days

on dreary days like this
it takes just a sound
a memory
a scent, a line
to fall apart completely
the unabashed snow is relentless
turning it all white
even the blue sky is hidden
the birds have a canvas
but they're quiet
the silence is thick
the wind breaks it sometimes
but not gently
it is menacing, like a knife
and as night falls
it is absolutely obvious
I'm the only one in the world
I can't wait to close my eyes
to find some respite for now
until tomorrow

The Young Poets of Winnipeg

scurried around a classroom papered with poems.
Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase…
they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage
to read their work, blessed their teacher who
encouraged them to stretch, wouldn’t let their parents
attend the reading because parents might criticize,
believed in the third and fourth eyes, the eyes in
the undersides of leaves, the polar bears a thousand miles north,
and sprouts of grass under the snow. They knew their poems
were glorious, that second-graders could write better
than third or fourth, because of what happened
on down the road, the measuring sticks
that came out of nowhere, poking and channeling
the view, the way fences broke up winter,
or driveways separated the smooth white sheets
birds wrote on with their feet.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Friday Night

I'm in this huge house, all alone. M is gone for the weekend. I have an amazing drink in my hand, I'm playing music on M's powerful music system. The ambience is perfect. Then why is it that the past is like a hologram around me. I can't look beyond it, I don't want to be here.


We will bring in fish from V today and get some old monk on the way. We make sure that there is no one else joining us. It's one of those days, I want to talk to you, no holds barred. You're delayed because of your tuition and that annoys me a little. Once we start making the drink all will be forgotten. You will share things too, it takes only the first drink to get us drunk. We're good that way, we talk. We put all the shit out there real quick. Maybe there is a lot we're dying to get out and we have only each other.
It's past midnight, adventure time! we go to the canteen and get the tea cycle. We ride around, clandestine and thrilled. It is time to part but it has been a good night, it always is when it's the two of us. While I cycle back through the dark, I like to look at the street lights, everything is so empty. B looks raw, the skeleton of this overburdened city. I sway on my cycle, I'm high enough to be in control as night riders zoom past in blurs of light.

K was on the cards but it's raining heavily and we can't go there. We managed to get the supplies in time. We'll pull out chairs in the main building corridor, looking at the coconut trees in the back. That gets us to Apocalypse Now and Marlon Brando and the Cohen brothers. We spend the next few drinks reminiscing film and music. We talk of friendship and love, the abundance and the lack of it. We will be mad at the world around us, we will whine and complain until we mellow down again and come back to the good stuff. How can we remain grumpy on this lovely, wet night? We will play Canned Heat, Rodriguez. Rahman and Pink Floyd. We wish time could freeze but you need to leave. I don't want to go back and I pull out the sleeping bag. I don't have many nights left, as I sleep I wish you had stayed longer.

Today you came to me all flustered. A new story with H. I hear that a lot now. I like that you share these with me. I feel included. There is an intimacy with you that will be hard to find with anyone else. We have been through so much. It is the latest confusion, the latest heartbreak. I am amused and sympathetic. I want to say many things to you but mostly I just want to say that you have nothing to worry. You have love now, deep love. I have a good feeling about this, it will be everything you want. I want to tell you to enjoy this and relax. I feel like a grandmother giving life advice. I know you have the grit to go through anything even if that means bawling your eyes out. You're one of the strongest people I know. I wish I could tell you that I derive courage from you, I don't say it. I feel embarrassed. I've built walls around myself.

It's the last time we meet. You got something for me but I know that's just an excuse to see me again before I leave. I'm glad you made it up, I was too shy to ask. You spend an hour with me. Mostly in silence or in completely irrelevant conversation. Maybe this is the only way to acknowledge what's happening. A distraction from the dread that is seeping through me. I can tell that you feel it. You tear up first, I can't hold it much longer either. Still nothing is being said, we know what we know. Right now, I'm not worried about leaving my life here or about anyone else. Right now is the last time I'll see you when you drive away. It's an overwhelming thought. The next few minutes are a haze. I will not cry properly until two days later. That's how long it takes to realise what's happening.

You ask me to come running today. I was hoping you would, we missed the last couple of Sundays. I'm already on extra time, I was supposed to leave. I'm glad I got this time, to run, to talk. You started talking recently, it's a relief. I'm not scared of you when you talk. What scares me? Indifference and silence. I got something for you, left it in the tree. I like doing that, it feels like we have this place, this secret that only we know about. It makes you happy. You play a song and I tell you that this was a break up song, even as I know that it will never be a break up song again. It will be your song from now on.

You're anxious and lost. It's been on your face since we started. I will try to take different routes and play music that you like. It doesn't help. There is something else going on, I can't tell. Maybe you don't know either. You don't talk today, only listen patiently until you finally can't and walk away. I feel silly and inadequate. I dearly wish I had brought something today, that is the only way I know to cheer you up. I wish. My time is ending. Today I'm very conscious of it. This sunshine, this morning, this run, this feeling is all ending.


It is my 38th day here. I can count on my fingers the number of people I know. Formally. I go in early to work and the sweet old cleaning lady asks me "how are you today darlin?". I feel like kissing her. It's the high point of my day.

Note 68

“Somebody," said Jacques, "your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour - and in the oddest places! - for the lack of it.”

James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

It is an uncanny day. The outdoors look gorgeous bathed in partial white, the sun hasn't been shy and the wind for once is not out to tear me apart.
The usual hunt for meaning, for something to do and finding the pointlessness in things that I actually have to do is missing. The tedium hasn't found me yet. The world seems kinder, like there is a place in it for me.
I'm sure it is not a result of some deep fulfilment I've found overnight. There is no such thing, not in the long run anyway. There are simply good days and bad. The best I can do is maximise the good and drag myself through the bad. I can't do it alone. I need the world, for sustenance, for keeping me engaged and for love, most importantly for love. Frankl says in his book that the image of his beloved wife and the dream of meeting her someday kept him from suicide and other horrors of the concentration camps. He talks about finding meaning in the suffering, a meaning brought about by this image of someone beyond the suffering.

I'm not in a concentration camp. I'm not being physically abused or starved. Yet, I find it very comforting to know that people can endure and come back from that kind of deprivation. It gives me strength and hope. I am uprooted from everything familiar. I am distant from everyone I love. I look out the window to find houses, trees, birds and people, all strange. I keep asking myself why someone would want to move their lives this way? I keep looking back at the past and finding comfort in the thought of going back to it someday. It is irreparably lost now, even if I did go back, I would find it changed. All I can do is drift in those clouds of memory that are precipitated sometimes from a familiar smell or taste, a song, a verse, a person. I spent a large part of the day drifting in memory, sometimes real sometimes created. Wallowing in the imagined glory of those places and times.

Today, I was looking forward. In the corners of my mind there is a guilt about this. As though I owe an explanation to people and places that I've come away from, as tough I've done them some harm, as though I've run away. It makes me look at my situation as atonement which must be devoid of pleasure and there must be no moving ahead. Instead, it should be spent in contemplation of those I've wronged. Looking forward doesn't come easily without this guilt gnawing in the background. I can't find the source of it, I don't know if there is a source of it.
I know time will not let this last and that's how it will be buried eventually in whatever form. I have things to do and I want to experience this place without baggage. The only things I want to take away from the past are moments of joy and connection. I have those, plenty of those. Memories cannot be my crutch here, they should not be.

As men, we are taught the virtues of strength and of not showing mental weakness. This is the single most fucked up part of growing up. There can be nothing more counter intuitive. The archetype of the intellectual and self sufficient man is a myth, there is no such creature. You show me an intellectual, self sufficient man and I'll show you a full fledged support structure that perpetuates the myth. I detest the use of adjectives like "intelligent", "genius", "prodigy", "natural", "hard-boiled" as descriptions of virtue. They hide insecurity, lies, immaturity, ego, aggression, arrogance, denial or pettiness under the surface. An intelligent person is someone who sees the wholesome nature of knowledge, it's nuances, it's beauty, it's emotional aspect. Someone who acknowledges that this knowledge is gained through varied experience of life. It is not domain knowledge learned in a classroom or a book. "Strong" men (sometimes women but mostly men) masquerading as intelligent are changing the world with their stoic science, telling us how some sacrifices must be made for the future of humanity. Our biggest role model Elon Musk is famously "computer-like", meaning he doesn't use emotion in making decisions and we're supposed to bow down in awe. Maybe if computer boy wasn't the richest man in the world building his private wealth on inherited mining industries, buying out creative ideas, selling luxury cars, exploiting labour and telling the world how building Mars rockets is humanity's most pressing problem, things wouldn't have been so ridiculous.

I am not strong. I am anxious, nervous about new things and people, emotional about films and books and situations. I love my family and friends and it will be impossible to live without them leave alone being productive in any way. I cry, miss people, spend sleepless nights, worry, dream about weird things, dance and move my body in silly ways and it's embarrassing so I do it when no one is watching. I like nice clothes, stationary, books, food and all those other simple everyday bits. Sometimes my hair looks weird or my face and it bothers me. When I'm having a bad day, a text, a call from someone I love lifts me up and I count on that, dearly. When I am strong, I am strong for my family and friends. I will be there when they need me to be and then nothing else will matter.
I stumble through life, like everyone else stumbles through life. An acknowledgement of the stumbling makes it easier to stumble together. Maybe that's more important than fancy cars.

Ephemerality of love, Immortality of Guru Dutt

For a while now, I actively seek out movies that trust me to understand the story without having to stuff every. single. thing. down. my. throat. The kind of movies which don’t assume the average IQ of the viewer to be 17.

You understand what I am saying- you know when Karan Johar shows us every quiver of Shah Rukh’s lips (in close up, lest you miss it) when he is in the hospital, every single sinew in his strained neck. THE HERO IS IN PAIN…YOU GET IT? ADD THE MELANCHOLIC MUSIC, DAMMIT! (stolen notes from his screenplay). If a family is happy it is deliriously happy, there must be 798 dancers in the background, lest it is confused to be a sombre death anniversary. And oh, did I mention that you must go to Egypt to make out? How else can you show love between the characters? And of course, god forbid, if you have lost in love, you have no other option but to leave your studies, friends and re-locate!

The times are great- we have plenty of new films which do respect their viewers. Also explains my love (from the bottom of my heart) for people like Chaitanya Tamhane (if you are reading this- I really love you).

To those who have seen Guru Dutt films, you may agree that they are not very consistently subtle. The black and white medium made it very difficult to communicate moods and emotions of a scene through background colours, colours of costumes etc. and most films had a certain amount of theatrics for the impact.

But in the context of subtlety, his work is path breaking in its own ways. Lot of his films delved on existential issues which are expressly melancholic. The stark poverty, the gut-wrenching loneliness, the mocking failures, ephemerality of successes, fleeting friendships, the despondency, cast a pall of doom in our hearts and we readily resonate with it.

But when it comes to loss of love and expressing heartache, Guru Dutt maintains the subtle poise of a swan; stoic, fatalistic. He doesn’t ‘fight’ for love in his movies. He doesn’t sing to ‘win his love back’. Even in love, he watches himself from a distance, allows it to engulf him and engulfs himself in it. He is in-love, in ‘hum aapki aankhon mein…’; he lets himself be in love…The subtle expressions, the mild teasing; we did not overlook their love…

In defeat, with songs like ‘jane wo kaise log the jinke …’, ‘Dekhi zamane ki yaari…’, he meets the defeat while in pain, but with grace; as a wounded soldier who knows he fought valiantly. The most poignant of these is of course ‘Waqt ne kiya…’, showing two lovers losing their war, not speaking a word to each other. None were needed. The lyrics, the pain and defeat in his eyes and the resignation in Waheda Rehman’s face, were enough to reach the depths of our aching hearts. We learnt that while there was joy in loving, there was also dignity in losing that love.

For the world that he saw, I don’t know if it would provide any succour to him to know that even 45 years after his death, innumerable people see continued relevance in his work. Amidst the characters that sing ‘chana mereya…’ in past lovers’ weddings, or ‘agar tum sath ho…’, in denial; I still look forward to an occasional Guru Dutt somewhere, to bring in the subtle grace to the lover who is proud to have loved and yet brings dignity in that loss.

Dancing Dimple

Insanity

Someone robbed a bank
had friends in high places
someone stole food
or ran away with the wrong person
was paraded and lynched
someone was a mob boss
reached great status
held important social positions
someone wanted to use compassion
was dragged through the mud
someone used ribald slogans and noise
was cheered and accepted
someone used ideas and poise
was booed and thrown out
someone ruled with arrogance
deaf to the voices around
was hailed and worshipped
someone ruled with caution and advice
was thought weak and a looser
someone turned a blind eye to misery
was called the saviour
someone wanted to heal the pain
was brutalised for trying
someone had crazy ideas
was called a visionary
someone pointed out the madness
was branded a traitor
someone lied his way to the top
all sins were forgotten
someone made one mistake
entire life was shattered
someone of deep privilege
decides the fate of masses
in his infinite arrogance
someone risen from the dirt
remains a figurehead
someone hardened against emotion
plays with other lives
someone imbued with empathy
watches with helpless tears
someone sits atop the carnage
hailed the warrior of peace
someone kind as the moonlight
called a dangerous terrorist

someone somewhere somehow
find some kindness, find some love

Thoughts on Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Some movies, as do some books, leave us with a high, ensuing numbness from the incumbent reality. Transport us into their world and then end, selfishly, leaving us behind. Some of these linger in our sub-conscience for days, and one story that has stayed with me is ‘Portrait of a lady on fire’. This passage is not a movie review, not an analysis of the characters, but a note of what the movie left me with!

It would be ironic, if the movie were to be written about volubly as, fundamentally the movie entrusts us to understand what lies beyond words, to perceive what the characters perceive, without the expression of its lurid details. Much is written about the tantalizing ‘female gaze’ that the movie builds itself around. While that is of essence to the expression in the movie, what also deserves cognizance is the brevity in the dialogues exchanged. The dialogues are few and precious, and once drawn into the movie, you would collect them greedily and selectively recollect them from memory, to assimilate their brilliance.

The movie explores freedom in debilitating circumstances. Freedom, albeit, in the solace of the bondage. The movie wrapped itself around me and uncovered the timelessness of the ephemeral story, subtly and yet poignantly. I felt lucky to be alive in a day and age where this gem stands made, for us to be able to savor it, slowly, like fine wine!

Energetic Orange

Ghost

The ghost and I, we shared some space
sometimes she found me and sometimes I her
sometimes I reached out, in longing
it was futile, the ghost was fleeting
there was no pattern, no semblance
to her moods that I could understand
sometimes she reached out, in hope?
of perhaps some tenderness and camaraderie?
or of friendship and intimacy?
maybe it was all of them
or maybe I'm delusional in happiness
then let me feed into this delusion
hope is a good thing, the best of things
I hope ghosts can still hope
maybe we were friends, maybe we weren't
maybe we were close, maybe we weren't
all this was hard to say, hard to define
the ghost and I, we just shared some space

The View from Halfway down

The weak breeze whispers nothing
The water screams sublime
His feet shift, teeter-totter
Deep breath, stand back, it’s time

Toes untouch the overpass
Soon he’s water bound
Eyes locked shut but peek to see
The view from halfway down

A little wind, a summer sun
A river rich and regal
A flood of fond endorphins
Brings a calm that knows no equal

You’re flying now
You see things much more clear
Than from the ground

It’s all okay, or it would be
Were you not now halfway down

Thrash to break from gravity
What now could slow the drop
All I’d give for toes to touch
The safety back at top

But this is it, the deed is done
Silence drowns the sound

Before I leaped I should’ve seen
The view from halfway down

I really should’ve thought about
The view from halfway down

I wish I could’ve known about
The view from halfway down

Bojack Horseman, Season 6, episode 15

The God of all Things

Modernity is an anti-requiem. It does not wish for a repose for the dead, because it is fuelled by the dead…those who are purely creatures of habit.

Exiting Modernity, Meta-Nomad

Modernity, also known as consumerism, is our new god. In the truest sense of a divine being, this god holds supreme power over us. We bow down to it everyday irrespective of class, sex, age, race. It is all pervasive. So undeniable is its hold that all previous gods pay their respects to it for it has subsumed their subjects.

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Fashion and Technology is such a difficult world to navigate. Your head must be buzzing with all the products out there – the latest phones and laptops, watches, home appliances, clothing, shoes, accesories and makeup. It would make anyone dizzy. It is completely impossible to restrict the amount of products in the market and to produce products that are more lasting and sustainable. Instead, we have designed beautiful shopping websites for you! Here, you can pick/filter/browse/review/return anything you want. The choices are endless and we understand that your desire is too, isn’t that just great? To facilitate your experience we have even filled up all conceivable media with not so subtle product placement and lifestyle choices so that you’re never far from realizing that happiness is just one product away.

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There is so much going on in the world today that you don’t know where to start. Your mind can feel like a mess, but you don’t want to be left out of the excitement either. We bring you the perfect balancing act to keep you informed about the latest news/trends and hottest gossip from all over the world so you’re never left behind. Along with our quick access information portal we also have streaming services for TV/films and documentaries. With our endless source of content you will never have to use your brain again! Thinking is important but why do it yourself when we can do it for you? Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The god of modernity weaves a tight web of need. We need it for our daily lives – to eat, to sleep, to be entertained perpetually, to shop, to exercise, to learn, to go to the toilet, to count, to make a livelihood, to find our way literally and figuratively. Our very existence seems to depend on it. We crave for it, we miss it, we’re emotional about it, we’re defensive and protective, we love and care about it, we’re miserable without it. It is our companion, our stress buster, our coping mechanism, our protector and our catharsis. The price we pay in return is almost invisible – disconnect from the world, apathy, lack of focus, irritability, sleeplessness, narcissism, inability to think without aid, addiction, incorrect beliefs, brainwashing, arrogance, false sense of security, no community, health risk, mental disorder.

The web of need binds us and we truly believe that the lord in his infinite glory will provide and provide and provide for our endless needs, the lord knows our needs, the lord has created our needs and sustains them. Everything we own, know, trust and believe comes from the lord and shall go back to the lord. While we sit and watch with listless and vacant eyes like the dead.

Drifting Away

I’d woken up early and I took a long time getting ready to exist.

The Book of Disquiet

There is a tedium in my life now. Like the dampness after the monsoon, it has seeped into every corner of my soul. I do not have a sense of time, of how long it has been like this. I can only say that it has been very long. I do have glimpses of a past full of energy, a sense of purpose and of achievement, of fiery ambition and volatile emotion. Now these are a blur, a story of my own dreaming perhaps and impossibly far from reality.

My day is filled with many things that I have accumulated and committed to doing over time. I can imagine doing this because I was interested at some point. Even now I am not averse to them but the meaning I once found in them seems lost. When I do them it is out of habit and to have something to do. Most times I don’t do them, time flies in a limbo of daydreaming, anxiety about the piling work, self deprecation and pretense of normality. I have always been good at daydreaming, it comes naturally, visually to me. The nature of my dreams and fantasies has changed drastically over time, from achievable ambitions and practical scenarios they are now increasingly distant from reality. The more impossible the dream the more I crave it, the more I add to it until it festers like an open wound that burns painfully but also tells me that I can feel.

It takes time for me to get out of bed. The comfort and certainty of my mental life is hard to let go. The prospect of facing the day is daunting for the fear of more exhaustion from idleness. Not idleness from the lack of work but one that comes from not working because of the tedium of work. Getting to the end of such a day again and again is no less tiring. At the other end, at night, I welcome the oblivion with the willingness of one who has slogged all day in the sun. I feel that I have earned the rest.

When someone talks to me about their passion or love or hopes with enthusiasm, my focus is completely on their demeanor and rarely on the details of what they are saying. What I really want to know is how they inspire in themselves such enthusiasm for something, how they can feel so deeply. I have moments when I feel strongly about something but I cannot sustain it. A little thought is enough to convince me that I do not want to make an effort. In times of self doubt, I am sure that this is lethargy and incompetence but this does not help in any way except to make it even more difficult to generate enthusiasm. This criticism sometimes pushes me to get things done and these little periods are when I’m being productive in real world tasks. Eventually, the tedium always catches on.

My deepest emotions are always felt in my dreams, the intensity can last several days or more. I am not ignorant of the world around me, I understand people and situations. I am perceptive and open to ideas. But I know that all this is on a superficial level, I cannot go deeper, I cannot arouse in myself the initiative to do something. The thought of it makes me back away. In my mind, the energy it would require and the pointlessness of it all is enough to make it dull. Only in my dreams can I find the strength of emotion and purpose. Amidst this, the pretense of normality helps keep up the dignity of my tedium.

I have respect for people with initiative, it is because of them that the world is worth living in, they are also the ones that make it wretched. I envy them. I envy their conviction, their drive, their energy. They have found a way to beat the tedium. This is the only way as far as I can tell.